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Monday, October 24, 2005 

Masterson On Beebe

Arkansas Democrat Gaz.
Here’s the scenario. Bob’s been charged with a crime he didn’t
commit. His attorney, Rufus, is the only person standing between him and jail time and paying an exorbitant fine. Poor Bob discovers that for years the prosecutor’s office has been making contributions toward Rufus’ third summer home in the Bahamas. OK, it’s not a perfect correlation with what’s been happening between utility companies in Arkansas and the state attorney general’s office. But it’s close enough for me for comparing the conflict in utility companies contributing to the campaigns of our attorney general, who is pledged to aggressively represent the people of Arkansas when those utilities push to raise their rates. Gunner DeLay of Fort Smith, a former state senator and recently announced GOP candidate for attorney general, made a headline out of his related concerns in a story last week. Our reporter Jake Bleed quoted DeLay as saying that he found the practice of utilities greasing the war chests of an attorney general unethical and a conflict of interest. To that I’d only add illogical, unnecessary and plain ole dead-bang wrong. It’s inconceivable to me that this practice would be permitted. The attorney general is our primary line of defense against the natural tendencies of utilities to rake in every cent possible from their captive audiences. Appearances do matter, my friends, and utility companies contributing to the one state official who is sworn to effectively and aggressively question their agendas, motives and requests on behalf of hard-working Arkansans is about as ugly a political scenario as I can envision. Now I am not saying, nor do I necessarily believe, that any attorney general, including the current version, Mike Beebe, a Democratic candidate for governor, has ever been bought off or jumped into the pockets of utility fat cats by receiving their campaign pay-outs. But Republicans certainly have been criticizing Beebe’s handling of consumer rate cases before the Arkansas Public Service Commission.
The fact is that it’s wholly irrelevant which political party has the AG in power when the money flows. This is a matter of integrity, credibility and honor.
Come to think of it, why does any utility company need to give money to the campaign of a public official, including the governor, who has no adversarial duties where they are concerned ? In us, these companies have a hamstrung audience, even down to those up-front deposits designed to prevent any losses.
Should utilities be in the business of spending portions of whatever we pay them each month to curry favor with those who regulate them on our behalf ? If you answered yes, please take three No-Doz tablets to fully wake up, then immediately contact your therapist. Let me know how it comes out.
Never known for timidity in the face of controversy, DeLay summarized this shameful situation by saying, “It concerns me that he [the attorney general ] would take money from a business that he is supposed to oppose. I think that constitutes a conflict of interest.”
How do you feel about this situation, valued reader ? How you view this situation actually matters most when all the dust from this flap settles. After all, it’s your money on both ends, right ? How does it make you feel, as utility rates continue to climb, to know that a tax-supported public servant who is supposed to represent our interests as an adversary to utility companies also accepts their contributions to help get elected ? Time always tells Those of you who have been patient enough to follow these wide-ranging missives over the years may recall my controversial series of columns on Arkansans who were crippled, suffering or deceased years after their stomach bypass surgeries, i. e., bariatric surgery. It felt sad four years ago to sit beside so many of these suffering people during state Sen. Tracy Steele’s hearings into the issue. Now comes this account from our ace health reporter, Nell Smith : “The rate of death after weight-loss surgery is higher among Medicare patients than previously thought, according to a study [in California ] released Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.... “ The study found ‘significant and sustained’ increases in the rates of hospital admissions for these patients after surgery. The annual rates of hospital admissions after surgery doubled the hospital admission rates before it, the study said.” Some insurance providers and HMOs, citing potential post-surgical problems, are now declining to cover the major surgery. Any further questions ?
—–––––•–––––—Staff columnist Mike Masterson is the former editor of three Arkansas daily newspapers.

If is looks like a duck and walks like a duck. it probably is a duck. Mike Beebe has a problem and it is a problem that he can run from, but he cannot hide.

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